Youth Rights Movement in the United States
The youth rights movement, also described as "youth liberation," is a grass-roots movement whose aim is to fight against ageism (also known as adultism and adult chauvanism) and for the self-determination civil rights for persons "under the age of majority"--usually under 18 in most countries. The youth rights movement can trace its roots to the 1970s and the books "Escape from Childhood" by John Holt and "Birthrights" by Richard Farson. Perhaps the first and best known youth rights group was Ann Arbor Youth Liberation which lasted from 1970 to about 1980.
During the 1980s, Youth Liberation faded out (for curious reasons) and morphed into a more superficially-oriented children's rights movement. Youth rights is different from children's rights, and at times the two movements are at odds with each other (again, for curious reasons). The children's rights movement advocates changes that are often restrictive, protection oriented, and paternalistic, that is, done for children rather than by children. While great strides were made by children's rights groups in combating child abuse during the 80s, great deceit was also perpetrated, i.e. in the form of well-financed professional adults taking control of children's voices and autonomy; a comparison of 1970s youth liberation literature and present literature should make that abundantly clear, despite the rhetoric.
In the mid-1990s, a youth led movement for self-determination rights began on the Internet. This reborn Youth Rights movement coalesced in 1996 into Americans for a Society Free from Age Restrictions (ASFAR). Divisions soon emerged between radicals and moderates within ASFAR leading to the formation in 1998 of the National Youth Rights Association. Led by NYRA and its leader Alex Koroknay-Palicz the Youth Rights movement is building support, refining its philosophy, and intent on taking Youth Rights to the mainstream.
The key beliefs of the Youth Rights Movement are summarized in the following statements:
All people, regardless of their age, have the right to...
- Full civil and human rights.
- Be recognized as a full citizen of the US by birthright or naturalization, not age.
- Be granted full rights of citizenship as accorded by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, including all rights therein.
- Be granted all privelages accorded by law, tradition, custom, and design without regard to arbitrary measurements including age. Such privelages include the issue of the drinking age and curfews.
- Full political rights, responsibilities, and equality. This includes participating fully in the democratic political process as voters, representatives, political officials, party canidates, and political office holders. Issues include the voting age.
- Full legal rights, responsibilities, and equality.
- Full social rights, responsibilities, and equality.
- Full economic rights, responsibilities, and equality.
- Full religious rights, responsibilities, and equality.
- Full moral rights, responsibilities, and equality.
- Fair, just and equal treatment at the hands of the law.
- Accurate information about the world.
- Create and sustain culture and institutions.
- Participate fully in the economic process, including holding jobs, owning and operating businesses, paying taxes, and demanding equal respresentation.
- Use to all information systems.
- Travel freely.
- Financial independence and responsibility, i.e. the right to own, buy, and sell property, to borrow money, establish credit, sign contracts, etc.
- Direct and manage personal education according to my needs, including educational access, advancement, and closure (dropping out). This includes the issue of unschooling.
- Fully participate in the management of the education system as learners, teachers, and leaders.
- Be free of systemic, attitudinal, and culture age discrimination of all sorts.
- Choose and follow individual ideas, thinking and interests.
- Be free of the threat of involuntary drafts into military forces that are indiscriminately targeted on youth.
- Create and maintain our personal space according to self-will, including living spaces, learning spaces, recreational spaces, and community spaces.
- Self-will in relationships with family, including being close to parents, withdrawing from family, and other options.
- Self-emancipation from parents and family, including living away from birth parents or choosing or making homes. This includes emancipation.
- Seek and choose guardians other than birth parents for continued legal dependence.
- Safe and supportive living, learning, recreational, and community space without fear of physical or sexual abuse, physical threats or punishment. This includes the issue of gulag schools, corporal punishment, zero tolerance, and student rights.
Key Youth Rights Issues
- Drinking age
- Voting age
- Gulag schools
- corporal punishment
- Zero tolerance
- Student rights